The Austin Chronicle

The Perfect Holiday

Rated PG, 96 min. Directed by Lance Rivera. Starring Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Faizon Love, Terrence Howard, Queen Latifah, Charlie Murphy, Katt Williams, Rachel True.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 14, 2007

Far from perfect and about as much fun as a holiday in Cambodia, this is lightweight yuletide fluffery, offensive neither in tone nor spirit but entirely unnecessary. As if in acknowledgment of the fact, this holiday film opens with a desperate sequence of protagonist Benjamin (Chestnut) chasing a buck, literally, down a street swarming with holiday crowds. Having very nearly purchased a sidewalk frank from Queen Latifah's angelic narrator-cum-hot dog vendor, the scene is obviously meant to be comic, but the subtext is as dark and forbidding as George Bailey's antilife: Ben, you dope, you're fruitlessly pursuing the wrong kind of god. That's the extent of subtext, however, and The Perfect Holiday devolves from its promising start into an overextended series of riffs and lifts and outright cinematic theft. First and foremost, there's Miracle on 34th Street: Ben is a singer-songwriter moonlighting as a department-store Santa; his possible paramour, single mom Nancy (Union), is pregnant with implausibility, having already spawned too-cute hood rat Emily (Khail Bryant) with previous alpha male gajillionaire J-Jizzy (Murphy). The moment of introduction into a Christmastime story of a character tagged with the debatably profane name of "J-Jizzy" is usually when I opt out, but Murphy, all dumbass rap snaps and oily hip-hop overkill, turns out to be the savior of the film, if not humanity. Ben and Nancy, smart and sweet and fated to be together yet living with the perpetual torment of "normal" names, don't stand a chance against Murphy's superfly Jizz-bomb, who steals the show without even breaking a dookie rope, yo. Still and all, watching the elastically contrived The Perfect Holiday is akin to finding a pair of knit socks in your stocking when what you really wanted was the leg lamp from the infinitely better A Christmas Story. Bad Santa! No cookie!

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